Colbert steps into his real character

8 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Colbert gets tips from Letterman.

When Stephen Colbert takes the stage as successor to David Letterman on CBS’s Late Show, a new era will be ushered in. The actor, comedian and – since 2005 — faux bloviator of Comedy Central’s TheColbert Report — on Tuesday begins his dream job, replacing David Letterman as the host of CBS’s Late Show (11:35 p.m.Not only is Stephen Colbert killing it every time he promotes the debut of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (Tuesday, CBS, Global, 11:35 p.m.) with videos, tweets and hey-you assertions, he’s getting help.In the series finale of “The Colbert Report,” the host accidentally vanquishes the devil, earning him immortality and a joyous rendition of “We’ll Meet Again,” performed by everyone from economist Paul Krugman to Cookie Monster.

For one thing, Colbert, formerly of Comedy Central, will doubtless attract a younger audience than Letterman, whose viewers’ median age was over 60, the oldest in late-night. ET/PT). “It gives me everything I want,” he says in an interview. “I like meeting the guests, I like the grind, I like a live audience, I love to hear the laughter. Jeb Bush, who will be on tonight’s first show, managed to turn his appearance into a news story by raffling tickets for the show to donors to his political campaign.

And in contrast to technophobe Dave, Colbert (and his staff, much of which he brought with him) has embraced promotion on social media, parceling out viral videos all summer as fast-turnaround “finger exercises.” Last week he sparred with Jeb Bush on Twitter and churned out a series of Snapchat videos. “I started college when he started the (NBC) show, so Dave…was a significant influence” that’s reflected in his humor. “His anti-authority quality served all of us well.” Still, he’s ready to make his own mark. Expect some Mardi Gras magic from this New Orleans favorite and his band, Stay Human, which will be showcased in Tuesday’s premiere episode with special guests. It’s Colbert himself, or more precisely, the chest-pumping, fire-breathing, unflappable character with star-spangled underwear as whom he masqueraded for nearly a decade. With Jon Stewart retired and Jimmy Fallon and Kimmel veering toward other topics, Colbert immediately claims the mantle of political humor: Colbert says he chose his premiere for the day after Labor Day, a traditional start to the campaign for presidential campaign, and says he’s “uniquely positioned” to tackle it thanks to his staff and the relationships with politicians forged over the past decade.

I was very proud of the show we had done, we’d had some success with it. (But) if I was going to do another live show in front of an audience, taking over for Dave was the only thing that had a laurel wreath on it.” He even spent time with Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater, where Dave showed him how to use a freight elevator to get from the show’s offices to the stage. “I was never a standup, I’m an improviser, and so for me the joy is, what’s going to happen between the two of us for the next six or eight minutes? Even Bill O’Reilly on Fox News inadvertently gave Colbert a ton of press when he warned Colbert about “alienating traditional Americans.” And then there’s the obvious, in terms of timing – the crazy hurly-burly of the U.S. presidential election is something Colbert is uniquely skilled in satirizing after years of satiric tomfoolery on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Conventional wisdom strongly suggests that while a pretend pundit can thrive on a niche channel like Comedy Central, he’d quickly wear out his welcome on a mainstream network like CBS, where most viewers want to go to bed with a confidant, not a cartoon. Jon didn’t like it.” Colbert plans an eclectic mix of “scientists, newsmakers, politicians, intellectuals, musicians that I love” and the usual assortment of movie and TV stars promoting projects. According to a recent Time magazine cover story, he’s toying with a recurring segment entitled “Who Am Me?” that will help viewers adjust to his new, more personal persona.

George Clooney and Jeb Bush are booked for Tuesday’s extended opener; other guests due this week and next range from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-Moon and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to the CEOs of Uber and Tesla to Scarlett Johansson, Jake Gyllenhaal and Lupita Nyong’o. They chatted on the phone when Colbert’s hiring was first announced (Letterman has said he was not consulted on the choice), and later, as Dave prepared to sign off for the last time. Expect Colbert to take advantage of musical Manhattan, starting next week with a number from the Tony Award-winning show “An American in Paris.” Heck, he may even step into the chorus line. There’s a live audience.” And: “I will tell topical jokes every night about things in the news, and if that’s a monologue then that’s a monologue, but I don’t think you’ll see it quite the same way.” And despite those test shows, he’s not sure exactly how things will roll: “I don’t know how to surf the wave until I’m on the board.” Colbert already put his singing-and-dancing chops to use as a closeted history teacher in Comedy Central’s “Strangers with Candy,” which often ended episodes with over-the-top musical numbers.

A couple weeks before he went off the air, I said, ‘Can I come talk to you?’ We sat in his outer office and had a couple bottles of Poland Spring (water); we talked about our dogs and our kids, and then I started asking him things about the show, nuts and bolts. He offered more kicks than Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” video in a “Report” version of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” warbled carols with Elvis Costello in a Grammy-winning Christmas special and held his own with Neil Patrick Harris and Patti LuPone in a PBS production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.” Colbert may even use musical segments to do more than boost artists’ sales. I said, ‘Do you mind me asking these questions?’ He said, ‘I don’t mind at all, no one’s ever asked me these questions.’ “I knew I could ask him anything. An actual appearance from the songwriting legend himself would say a lot about Colbert’s pull, since Simon is a longtime friend of Fallon’s executive producer, Lorne Michaels.

At the CBS upfronts presentation in May, he declared he won’t steer clear of controvers. “We will do the best show we possibly can and occasionally make the network very angry at us,” he said. Given that the network has released the first two weeks of guests for Colbert’s show, we decided to parse the list for clues about what direction he might be taking “The Late Show.” You would think this would go without saying, but, well… have you tuned in to “The Tonight Show” lately? As Bill Carter, author of two bestselling books about the late-night wars, wrote last week in The Hollywood Reporter, Colbert “may qualify as the most thoughtful and intellectual figure ever to sit behind a late-night desk.” That’s the important thing. Two high-powered tech CEOs will also make an appearance: Both Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk and Uber’s Travis Kalanick are slated to sit on the couch this week.

Not everyone will buy into it, and ratings matter, but the measurement of TV viewership has become much more sophisticated and, if Colbert is getting the desirable audience without winning a ratings war, he’s safe. Both could yield fascinating conversations, and Colbert doesn’t seem like the type to ignore Tesla controversies or Uber’s recent slew of bad press. Colbert’s passion for “The Hobbit” runs so deep that he made a cloaked cameo in “The Desolation of Smaug,” and he gets comic-book cred for being inked into an issue of “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Like Fallon and Conan O’Brien, he can put “Saturday Night Live” on his résumé, having partnered with Steve Carell as voice talent in the recurring animated sketch “The Ambiguously Gay Duo.” If that wasn’t enough, Colbert spent part of his wayward youth fronting a Rolling Stones cover band, a decidedly hipper pastime than Kimmel’s stint as a bass clarinetist in his high school marching band. In order to prove a point about the loopholes in PAC donations, Colbert announced his candidacy for president in 2007, getting some traction in both South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Just like on his old show, Colbert isn’t afraid of insulting politicians: He’s already publicly slammed Bush for using his “Late Show” appearance as a political fundraiser, raffling off a ticket to be in the audience.

He temporarily dropped his self-serving facade in 2010 to testify before Congress about lack of rights for migrant workers in upstate New York and stood beside his mentor Jon Stewart that same year for a semi-serious political rally at the Lincoln Memorial. However, in an indication of the late-night manoeuvres to come, in October, Kimmel is taking his show from L.A. to Brooklyn, during the first week that Colbert will be in repeats.

David Letterman’s “Late Show” was frequently a love letter to New York City and it seems like Colbert could keep the same tradition: Colbert will interview Broadway’s “American in Paris” director Christopher Wheeldon, and stars Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope will both perform.

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